Have you heard the story about boiling a frog? The story goes: a frog put into heated water will jump out immediately. But a frog placed in room temperature water that is slowly heated, will not notice the temperature change and be boiled to death. This is a great metaphor, and of course a lie. Are you kidding me? Of course the frog will jump out! Only PEOPLE are dumb enough to stay in a boiling pot of water. Joseph Overton’s theory, known as the Overton Window, is a frog boiling. Only the frog is you and I. The Overton window describes society’s narrow window of acceptance of certain things as norms or extremes. American society shuttered at the idea of a two piece swimsuit or a TV show with one bed for the married couple to sleep in. Even TV’s Murphy Brown becoming a single mom in 1991 was noteworthy.
Today Paris Hilton stops short of having sex with a Carl’s Jr cheeseburger on prime-time TV. This makes no news. It isn’t news.
From an adulterous President, to drug abusing sports stars, American society has expanded the Overton window. In fact, the window is a giant bay window opened as far as the eye can see.
What does this mean to you? We are not in the business of ranting and complaining about things we can’t change. We are in the awesome and success business. The Overton Window refers to public sentiment and opinion. It is not a claim for moral relativism. Overton never intended to give judgement on these changes, just observe the gradual acceptance of things once otherwise shunned. History tells us that public opinion and morality are not always aligned. Public opinion, in fact, is not permanent. I’m sure 1930’s German public opinion looked a lot different than public opinion in 1950. Truth with a capital “T” does not change. Neither does right or wrong. The gradual opening of Overton’s Window is cunning and will surprise you.
Define your values and remain true.
If you know your True North, your moral compass will always point there. Be sure to check that compass every week during your weekly review and keep it calibrated. Awesomeness is not being perfect. You will fall short of your True North. The Overton Window will let in some air on the thought that your mistakes are fine. It’ll tell you that rules governing morality, giving, and sacrifice are outdated. It will boil you! You, in your awesomeness will acknowledge that you fall short of your goal, but the problem (thus opportunity to improve) lays upon you and not the norm. That is awesomeness!
What do you accept today that was outrageous 30 years ago?
Rocco De Leo